The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we evaluate our lives and, looking more specifically at the property market, it has had a huge impact on the way consumers view homes to buy or rent.
Since last March, in-person property viewings have been discouraged by the government. This has paved the way for video tours to become the norm, with agents up and down the country perfecting their processes and now offering them as standard.
A need for reduced contact as the global community tries to limit the spread of Covid has led to more people staying at home for long periods of time. Although important activities such as moving home have been allowed to continue, it is on the proviso that transactions are carried out with health and safety front of mind.
The need for a more effective and simple way for agents to film and upload video tours inspired us to launch Holofy Spaces. With consumers and agents now used to video tours (and their various benefits) combined with stricter restrictions in place once more, the importance of video tours is only going to grow further in 2021.
Professional digital viewings have proven to be a more than adequate alternative to in-person viewings in both the sales and lettings sectors.
Looking specifically at the rental market, video tours and viewings are helping more agents to let properties sight unseen. For example, one of our partners, London agency Paramount, let 60-80% of its rental properties sight unseen over an eight-week period during the first lockdown of 2020.
Previously, property being let sight unseen was rare and often limited to overseas applicants. However, as a result of the pandemic, the landscape has been evolving and properties being let solely off the back of video tours is becoming increasingly common.
Why does letting sight unseen work for the rental market?
There are a specific set of factors which mean properties changing hands without in-person viewings taking place works for those operating in the rental market.
The high turnover of tenants and properties in the rental market – particularly in the largest cities - means there is always a high number of active tenants and available properties.
Therefore, prospective renters view more properties. Using video tours and agreeing to rent a property without seeing it provides tenants with a greater chance of securing their number one property in a fast-paced and competitive environment.
Viewings in the rental market are often shorter and time is usually of the essence, with tenants keen to see all the key information before making a decision quickly.
There is also the fact that many rentals take place for a temporary period, meaning applicants may be less fussy and happy to sign-up, provided they are happy with the information provided on a video tour.
Renting a property is also a less costly and final process than buying, which could lead to tenants spending less time on viewings, with an increased likelihood of them making an impulsive decision if they like a property.
What's more, in major cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester there are a high number of student and professional tenants from overseas, or people relocating from other parts of the country. These applicants may not be able to travel (particularly with the pandemic in mind), meaning their only option is to rent a property without visiting it in person, provided that the quality of the video offering is up to scratch.
Why video tours will continue to benefit agents and consumers
If letting agents provide applicants with comprehensive information and professionally compiled, high-quality video tours and viewings, there is no reason why letting properties sight unseen can't continue long after the pandemic.
The technology in this sphere continues to improve, with the video viewing experience becoming even more realistic for consumers in recent times.
Although some tenants may still require an in-person viewing, many will be happy to sign on the dotted line after two or three successful video tours.
Alongside the benefits for tenants, there are numerous advantages of video tours and letting properties sight unseen for agents.
They can save valuable time by not attending as many viewings in person, while also being able to qualify applicants more efficiently. Video tours can help agents to increase the area they cover due to fewer geographical constraints and manage a higher number of properties.
As we move through 2021 and the impact of the pandemic hopefully subsides, it will be interesting to see how the trend of properties being let sight unseen develops as video tours go from strength to strength.
*Eduard Cristea is Co-Founder of Holofy Spaces, a brand-new app which allows agents to film digital viewings and instantly host them on their website and embed them in portal listings.